Careful, The Sh-- You Say May Promote Stereotypes
January 10, 2012
by Misty Harris
After a Canadian webisode spoofing female behaviour went viral in December, YouTube has been flooded with copycat efforts that play off the original video's title, Sh-- Girls Say. Dozens of incarnations have popped up in recent weeks, parodying race, class, gender and lifestyle by replacing "girls" with sundry other targets.
But to view the trend through a sociologist's eyes, the "cheap laughs" come at a high price.
"People think if it makes them laugh, it must be harmless and shouldn't be taken so seriously. However, these memes promote some of the worst gender, race, sexual orientation and class-based stereotypes," says Patricia Leavy, associate professor of sociology at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. "Laughing about stereotypes deflects people from thinking about them - and in the real world, they aren't very funny at all."
Sh-- Black Girls Say riffs on its targets' supposed love of Basketball Wives, Cheetos, and tendency to cry at The Colour Purple. Meanwhile, Sh-- Black Guys Say, which appears on the humour site Funny or Die, paints a picture of incessant infidelity, lying and lechery.
There's also Sh-- White Girls Say to Black Girls, whose online audience has topped 4.3 million thanks to its creators' didactic take on race and culture. Lines include, "Not be racist, but . . . ," "You can say the N-word but I can't?" and "Why isn't there a White Entertainment Television?"
Other videos spoof gay guys, Asian guys, Asian girls, douchebags, drunk guys, drunk girls, single girls, vegans, monks, moms, and even Wookiees. Canada's Lululemon has also joined in, unpacking cliches about the very people who've made the company successful: yogis ("Apples are actually nature's toothbrush").
Deepak Sethi, a Canadian TV-comedy writer working in L.A., attributes the trope's success to people loving to see themselves.
"They want to watch and try to see if they actually say the same things in the videos," says Sethi. "It's the same reason why people will look at themselves first in any picture. You can show a picture to a girl of her at a club, and even if someone in the picture is punting a kitten, she'll say: "Guys, look! I blinked."
The online sh--storm, as it were, can be credited to the massive success of Sh-- Girls Say, a series of videos created by Toronto's Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey. Dialogue from the webisodes includes, "I'm not even joking right now," "That's not OK," and "Could you do me a huge favour?"
But the first person to strike gold in the genre was Justin Halpern, whose Twitter account Sh-- My Dad Says - which boasts some 2.9 million followers - led to a bestselling book and TV-writing gig at CBS in 2010. From his seasoned vantage point, the current craze is likely just that.
"These things seem to go in phases, and in a couple months we probably won't see (the videos) anymore," says Halpern, whose sophomore book, I Suck at Girls, hits shelves this spring. "But I didn't think Sh-- My Dad Says would be a success, so maybe I'm the wrong guy to ask."
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